We're proud to be celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month throughout February. BLM's LGBTQ+ Network and Allys have been sharing their stories with us. Whether it be a courageous coming out story, supporting a loved one or being part of the community in general in some way, we're delighted to share their stories with you...
Priya Sejpal, Solcitor
"Whilst there are some deeply sad stories about members of the LGBTQ+ community "coming out", this is an encouraging story of allyship. My brother, a sweet goofy boy yet ridiculously talented, insanely intelligent and quite honestly mum's favourite, came out when he was 20.
"Turns out, she was proud of him, proud that he had the courage to speak out about it, proud that he stood so firmly and so bravely in his truth and proud that he was her son. Cut to three years later, my brother decides to go travelling and I'm sitting at the dining table drinking a cup of chai with my mum with her telling me how much she misses him. Taking matters into my own hands, I buy mum a ticket to Miami, just ahead of Mother's Day so that she can go and see her son. Not only do they meet, bond and celebrate, but I get a phone call a few days into the trip from my brother to say "guess what me and mum have just done, we've just gone to Miami Pride and got matching tattoos - bet you're jealous sis."
"I still can't quite work out how I got the short straw here, I sent mum, paid for everything and they got to have all the fun and get tattoos! But quite honestly, it didn't matter as that for me, was the moment I knew how much of an ace mum I have- despite knowing the backlash she may face having a gay son, from some members of the Indian community, she stood proudly next to him, as did I and as we always will. But the coming-out narrative still remains a little uncomfortable for me- as mentioned in a really interesting Huffington post, it suggests the catharsis of confession and confession to me is synonymous to the notion of revealing one's secret. My brother's sexuality is NOT a secret to be told, it's his life-story. It is not, therefore, as much about coming out as it is about "letting in". Letting in allows for agency over what to disclose, to whom and when; it is a moment of communion not confession. So, let's just start letting in shall we and make the world a more inclusive wholesome place to be in."
Alistair Burford, Paralegal
"I have been fortunate to grow up in a very accepting and tolerant family. My mother is Dutch and very liberal and this had a positive effect on my father's attitude. When I came out to them it was met with love and support. Actually, three out of four of their children would eventually come out as gay! That being said, I have still found myself in situations when not everyone has been as accepting and tolerant.
"I play for the Birmingham Bulls RFC, a gay and inclusive rugby team based in the Birmingham Gay Village, that was set up in 2011. The team was set up to provide the opportunity for people of all ages, sex, gender and backgrounds who may not necessarily have felt comfortable with the 'macho changing room environment' that can often be associated with rugby, to learn a new sport, develop new skills and meet people without fear of discrimination. I've always played rugby so that wasn't a fear for me, but some of my teammates have been ostracised in their previous clubs due to their sexuality.
"In the early years of the club's development, games were mainly played with other inclusive teams across the country (as of 2022, there are currently 29 inclusive teams in the UK alone and inclusive-based rugby teams is one of the largest growing areas of the game at grassroots level) which allowed the team to develop and improve. As the seasons went by and the club grew in strength and numbers, the decision was taken to join the local Birmingham merit league which was a lower-level league.
"Unfortunately, some of our first matches in this league were memorable for the wrong reasons. There were a number of times in the first season where the opposition were abusive towards individuals and the team in general due to their sexuality. It was quite common for derogatory comments to be made about the opposition 'not losing to a bunch of gays' and that 'they were surprised that we could play rugby'. The first season was not a success in terms of winning games with us literally losing every game bar one. However, what was a success was how we as a club were able to slowly change people's mentalities and we found that as the season went on, the teams began to respect our club and what it stood for. Fast forward four seasons and it is fair to say that the club has improved no-end with us winning the league after an unbeaten season. Whist the results are obviously brilliant, it's the fact that the club has been able to change perceptions within the local rugby community as to how sexuality should not define a person and what they can achieve. The support that the local clubs within the league now show to the Birmingham Bulls has been brilliant with the Bulls being made to feel as much a part of the rugby community as some of the bigger historic clubs. As a club, we are hosting The Union Cup, one of Europe's largest amateur rugby tournaments, in 2023 which will see over 2000 rugby players of all ages, gender and sexuality descend upon Birmingham. The support and interest that members of the local rugby community have shown in respect of this tournament has been overwhelming and heart-warming."
"I came out as bisexual during my second year of university. In the first instance I wasn't even sure if I should come out at all – I was in a long-term relationship with a man, and although identity was important to me, I felt coming out might look like an empty gesture due to my relationship being heteronormative When I did decide to come out it felt like a relief. I didn't have to be the "straight friend" at the gay club, and I could talk freely about my experiences. My friends were amazing. Most weren't surprised and what felt like a big announcement was met with nothing but acknowledgement and acceptance.
"What I didn't bargain on was what it would do to my relationship. My boyfriend at the time was young and insecure. By telling him I was bisexual all he heard was that he had increased competition for my affections. It meant that with him I never talked about that side of myself.
"Occasionally he would ask me if I wanted to sleep with women now. I tried to explain that I loved him and I had always liked both men and women and that nothing had changed. I don't regret coming out at all. It was the best thing I ever did. It strengthened my friendships and ultimately got me out of a relationship with someone who would never appreciate the whole of who I am. I am now happy and settled with my partner. When I told him I was bisexual it was as if I had told him something as trivial as my favourite colour being green. That was our first date, last year we bought our first home together and I have never been happier.
"Ultimately, I found freedom in coming out. It's not always an easy step but one that is so worth doing. Never be afraid to be yourself, because ultimately those who love you just want you to be happy."
Colin Rogerson, Partner
"When I started my training contract back in 2009, I knew I was gay but wasn't out. I trained at a relatively small family law firm in Central London. The was, and still is, known for pioneering new areas of family law and at the time there were some significant developments in family law for LGBT parents such as two mums being able to registered on the child's birth certificate and two dads through surrogacy were able to secure their parental rights without going through adoption.
"By my second year as a trainee I was ready to come out. I wasn't sure how my parents would react but I wanted to start by telling my friends. I also did not want to be out at work. This wasn't because I was worried about discrimination, but because I knew the firm wanted to branch out into these evolving areas of family law and that they would see me as the poster boy for that.
"Ironically, having decided not to come out at work, the first friend I told was my fellow trainee. A few weeks later I came out to my parents. It was earlier than planned: I was at home for Christmas and my mum asked me if I was gay, so I told her I was. My parents didn't take too well to the news at the time and when I returned to work I decided it was best to tell my supervising partner. She was incredibly supportive and checked in on me and took me out for nice lunches.
"When I qualified I was retained in the firm's children law department. As anticipated, I was asked if I wanted to teach myself surrogacy law as a few cases had started to come in. Having been assured that it was because legal research was a strength (I have my doubts) I agreed to be the assistant solicitor working on surrogacy cases. As it happens, I quite enjoyed it. Rather than dealing with family breakdowns, I was helping to create them.
"From there my niche practice grew. Amongst other cases, I obtained injunctive orders to protect a lesbian from Africa living in London being forced into a marriage in her home country and acted for a transgender father seeking contact with her children who remained living in the Charedi Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where their mother opposed contact because of the father's transgender identity.
"Thankfully my parents came around and are very supportive. They were very proud when I won a rising star award from the LGBT Bar Association and would tell anyone that would listen all about it.
"The 2009 Colin would have certainly run a mile if he knew what was in store, but looking back I wouldn't have had it any other way."